By Gregory Hellman | 10/12/2017 10:00 AM EDT

DRIVING THE DAY - VOICES RISE AHEAD OF TRUMP'S DECISION ON IRAN: President Donald Trump is expected yet this week to decertify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, forcing Congress to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on the country. The strategy aims to accommodate Trump's opposition to the deal while still preserving it.

But deliberations by Trump's national security team illustrate how the president's gut impulses and desire for dramatic action have often collided with the subtlety of international diplomacy, writes The Washington Post.

And ahead of his decision, several prominent voices in Congress and around the world are urging him to preserve the accord.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said at the top of a hearing Wednesday "as flawed as the deal is, I believe we must now enforce the hell out of it," via The Hill.

Nonetheless, Democrats who support the deal are bracing for upheaval, aiming to appeal officials within the administration who want to keep the agreement, write POLITICO's Elana Schor and Nahal Toosi.

And Democrats who once opposed the deal are now urging Trump to keep it, adds The Associated Press.

- IRAN WARNS OF 'TOUGHER RESPONSE,' via the AP: "Iran on Wednesday warned of a tough response if President Donald Trump presses ahead with his threats to scuttle the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told lawmakers during a closed session of parliament that Iran 'will never renegotiate' the deal brokered with the U.S. and five other world powers, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

"The nuclear agreement required Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying Iran will offer a 'tougher response' if the U.S. breaks the agreement."

Meanwhile, Europe continues to scramble to save the deal by supporting wider measures against Iran's missile program and policies viewed as destabilizing the Middle East, Reuters writes.

And former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak says it would be a "mistake" for Trump to decertify the agreement, adds The New York Times.

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HAPPENING TODAY - HOUSE VOTES TO KICK OFF NDAA CONFERENCE: The House is slated to vote today on forming a conference committee with the Senate to hammer out the differences in their competing versions of the National Defense Authorization Act. Neither chamber has officially appointed conferees yet, but House and Senate Armed Services leaders aim to finish all non-funding issues by the end of October.

- HOUSE PANEL EYES NORTH KOREA THREATS TO THE U.S.: The House Homeland Security Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee hears from leading experts on threats to the homeland posed by North Korea.

CHINA VS. AMERICA SPY WARS FLARE, writes POLITICO's Ali Watkins: "The sun was setting over Chengdu when they grabbed the American.

"It was January 2016. The U.S. official had been working out of the American consulate in the central Chinese metropolis of more than 10 million. He may not have seen the plainclothes Chinese security services coming before they jumped him. In seconds he was grabbed off the Chengdu street and thrown into a waiting van...

"U.S. officials consider the abduction an unusually bold act in a long-simmering spy game between Washington and Beijing, one recently overshadowed by a newly aggressive Russia. But U.S. officials and China experts say the two countries are engaged in an espionage battle that may be just as fierce, if far less publicized."

CYBERCOM STANDS UP PLANNING CELLS, reports Defense News: "Cyber Command has stood up forward-deployed planning cells within the combatant command staffs to help better coordinate offensive and defensive cyber effects.

"The entities, called Cyber Operations-Integrated Planning Elements, or CO-IPE, are weeks-old. They will do all the planning for Department of Defense Information Network operations, defensive cyber operations, internal defensive measures and offensive cyber operations, said Army. Col. Paul Craft, the director of operations J3 at Joint Force Headquarters-DoDIN, who spoke Tuesday during a presentation at the Cyber Pavilion of the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference.

"'These are planners that are now sitting in the combatant commands. This has never happened before. This is brand new stuff,' Craft said."

Meanwhile, Russia turned popular anti-virus software into a spy tool to secretly scan computers worldwide for classified U.S. government documents, reports The Wall Street Journal.

WAR REPORT - AMERICA'S SHADOW WAR IN AFRICA, write our colleagues Wesley Morgan and Bryan Bender: "America's little-known war on terrorists in Africa is becoming more perilous as the U.S. deploys growing numbers of troops to the continent's most lawless regions, including the part of Niger where four special operations soldiers died in an ambush last week.

"The escalation is occurring with little public debate - and, some military experts say, too little attention from top decision-makers in Washington. The U.S. military presence in the Sahel and sub-Saharan regions has grown to at least 1,500 troops, roughly triple the official number of American troops in Syria, according to Pentagon and White House figures.

"As with Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the dispatch of hundreds of additional U.S. troops to countries like Niger, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Uganda and South Sudan is another instance where President Donald Trump's "America First" rhetoric hasn't kept his administration from being drawn deeper into far-flung war zones. And the U.S. lacks a comprehensive strategy for pursuing its mission in Africa, military and intelligence experts told POLITICO."

And militants who attacked U.S. troops in Niger were new to the area, Mattis says via the AP.

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- U.S. REJECTS NEGOTIATED ISIS WITHDRAWAL FROM RAQQA, via the AP: "The U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State group said Wednesday that it won't accept a negotiated withdrawal for hundreds of IS militants holed up in the Syrian city of Raqqa, once the extremists' de facto capital.

"The remarks by coalition spokesman, Col. Ryan Dillon, came as coalition allies were working out ways to safely evacuate an estimated 4,000 civilians who remain trapped in the city."

Meanwhile, the Syrian army has captured areas of ISIS-held al-Mayadin, southeast of Raqqa, adds Reuters.

- TRUMP FACES DECEMBER DRONE POLICY DECISION, reports your Morning D correspondent: The Trump administration will need to decide by December whether to provide annual public updates to the legal and policy framework governing drone strikes on suspected militants, Alex Moorehead, director of Project on Counterterrorism, Armed Conflict and Human Rights at the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute said Wednesday.

The Obama administration released its framework in December 2016 accompanied by a presidential memo requiring it update the document annually, Moorehead noted during a Stimson Center discussion on drone policy under Trump.

"It's a landmark point to see whether the Trump administration is continuing or changing," Moorehead said.

Meanwhile, suicide drones can provide a lethal punch for U.S. special operations forces using them, writes Defense News.


U.S. HELO CRASH IN JAPAN HIGHLIGHTS CIVILIAN SAFETY CONCERNS, writes the NYT: "A transport helicopter made an emergency landing after catching fire on Wednesday in a United States military training area on the northern part of Okinawa in Japan, stirring concerns about the deployment of the craft near civilian areas.

"In a statement, the Third Marine Expeditionary Force said that the helicopter had been taking part in a routine training and that none of the crew members or any civilians were injured.

"According to the Japanese Defense Ministry, the helicopter, a CH-53, made its landing in the Takae district of Higashi village, where the Japanese government has been building helicopter landing pads for the American military, a project that a small but fierce group of residents have been protesting for years."

INDUSTRY INTEL - LORD AIMS TO EMPOWER SERVICES FOR ACQUISITIONS, reports our colleague Jacqueline Klimas: "The Pentagon's top acquisition official today said she is reviewing every major defense program to find ways to shift more authority to the military services.

"'I am reviewing all major defense programs right now and looking at transitioning the bulk of those back [to the services],' Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said at the Association of the United States Army's annual convention.

"Over the past few years, Congress has sought through legislation to compel the Pentagon to make its process for acquiring weapons and services more agile. But Lord said she wants to use power the department already has to pre-empt additional lawmaker requests."

- LOCKHEED CTO WELCOMES SPACE COMPETITION, also via Jacqueline: "Competition between traditional defense contractors and newcomers to the business in space is 'very good for the nation,' Lockheed Martin's chief technology officer said [Wednesday].

"Keoki Jackson said NASA has expressed a 'firm commitment' to Lockheed's Orion space capsule and the Space Launch System rocket that will launch it. But he said he expects the country eventually to rely on both NASA and commercially designed vehicles, not one or the other.

"'When you talk about this broader space, including SpaceX and Blue Origin, my take on this is this is all very good for the nation,' Jackson told reporters over breakfast. 'I think competition is extremely healthy. I think it's energizing in a lot of ways.'"

- DEFENSE STOCKS SOAR ON KOREAN WAR SPECTRES, reports CNBC: "On Oct. 1, President Donald Trump once again took to Twitter to attack Kim Jong-un, saying that negotiating with the North Korean chairman is a waste of time. While social media mudslinging may not be the best way to deal with a hostile leader, there's at least one group who may not mind Trump's Twitter threats: defense industry investors.

"Year-to-date, the S&P 500 Aerospace and Defense Industry subsector index is up 30 percent, compared to 12.9 percent for the S&P 500. Since July 3, when North Korea fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile and Trump said in a tweet, 'Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?' the index has climbed by 14.3 percent."

Meanwhile, rising geopolitical tensions are generating new interest in Lockheed Martin's missile defense systems, adds Washington Business Journal.

And the North Korean foreign minister says Trump has 'lit the wick of war" with his "bellicose and insane" rhetoric, via Reuters.

MAKING MOVES - TRUMP TAPS LOCKHEED EXEC FOR TOP PENTAGON POLICY POST: The president intends to nominate John Rood, senior vice president of Lockheed Martin International, to be undersecretary of Defense for policy.

Rood has held several earlier federal posts, including assistant secretary of State for international security and nonproliferation, acting undersecretary of State for arms control and international security and deputy assistant secretary of Defense for forces policy.

- RETIRED COLONEL JOINS JINSA AS COO: Retired Col. Butch Kievenaar joins the Jewish Institute for National Security of America as its new chief operating officer. He had been chief of staff to the Army's III Corps.

SPEED READ

- An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three young children are released after years of being held captive by a network with ties to the Taliban: AP

- The U.S. military plans to demolish the isolation cell block at its prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: POLITICO

- The president intends to nominate White House chief of staff John Kelly's chief deputy, Kirstjen Nielsen, to be secretary of Homeland Security: POLITICO

- The Defense secretary calls an NBC News report on expanding nuclear arsenal "absolutely false": POLITICO

- A hacker steals non-classified information about Australia's Joint Strike Fighter program and other military hardware: Reuters

- The VA has covered up hundreds of medical mistakes and misdeeds for years: USA Today

- The Navy aims to send a message with the USS John S. McCain firings: The Washington Post

- And Navy Secretary Richard Spencer plans for cultural changes: WSJ

- The defense budget debate should include the "context" of tax cuts, Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) says: POLITICO Pro

- A lethal roadside bomb that has killed scores of U.S. troops reappears in Iraq: The Washington Post

- Investigators gather evidence of ISIS war crimes against the Yazidis: CNN

- How Russia and Iran outmatched the U.S. in Syria: Newsweek

- Kurdistan warns that Iraq is preparing to attack Kirkuk: Reuters

- The leader of Hamas says it has reached an agreement with rival Fatah on control of Gaza: AP

- Rohingya refugees recount war atrocities: NYT

- And the attacks systematically aimed to prevent them from returning, the U.N. says: AP

- The Army lowers its recruiting standards as demand for soldiers grows: USA Today

- West Point's superintendent responds to outrage of the pro-communist former cadet: Army Times

- The Army offers automatic promotions to Security Force Assistance Brigade volunteers: Defense News

- The Army figures out which infantry and other installations will integrate women next: Stars and Stripes

- Most of the nearly 2 million displaced Nigerians still can't return home: Reuters

- "Braid chopping" reports in Kashmir incite unrest: The Guardian

- High demand puts pressure on the Army's rotorcraft training school: Defense News

- The military is letting Guantánamo Bay detainee hunger strikes go longer in Cuba: NYT

- Puerto Rico National Guard troops in Alaska yearn to help at home: The Washington Post

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